Elvis isn’t dead. He lives in Kitchener, Ontario, on a bench outside the grocery store.
“One for the money!” I’m always tempted to say, as I dump a pathetic amount of change into his blistery hand. “One what?” he replies, in my head. “One what for the money?”
Today I decide to sit beside him. I’m not sure why, and I don’t think he notices. Most others try hard not to. They roll along, carts full of cabbage and toothpaste, eyes ahead, eyes ahead.
He has horrendous callouses, probably from all of the guitar playing, and his suit used to be white of course. Now it is yellow, the colour of armpit stains, and it smells like onions.
“I hate onions.”
I don’t realize I say this out loud, but I must, because he looks at me for the first time. Do you know what colour Elvis’s eyes are? At one point, the whole world did.
He clears his throat. And then he clears it some more. And then he croaks out something nearly unintelligible.
There’s a pause. We stare at each other. Finally, I speak. “Sorry?”
I’m entranced. I’m star struck.
“Why… do you hate onions?” he asks, incredulous. Something long and black sticks out between his two front teeth. A hair? An insect leg? Now that he’s found it, his voice is silkier than his red scarf. “They’re really good for your— blood.”
‘Blood’ comes out a hiccup. It almost knocks his wig off.
He looks away and begins to bob his head to a beat only he can hear.
We stare out across the parking lot for a long while. The sun dances through a puddle, glinting across rippling water. It reminds me of one of those ‘one night only’ signs in Vegas, or at strip clubs. ‘ELVIS: one night only.’ Flicker, flicker, flicker.
We watch as a small boy in khaki shorts gets scolded by his mother for muddying his outfit.
“Really, Tanner? You had to jump in that puddle? Do you not care how hard I work? Do you not realize clothes cost money?”
Elvis laughs. I laugh too, elbowing him like we’re old pals, but it is not just funny to him. It is the funniest thing he has ever heard. Elvis laughs and laughs. After a minute, I stop laughing, but he laughs louder. He pants, he wheezes, he gasps for air. I pat his back, and then he laughs so hard, he throws up.
“Thank you, thank you very much,” he says, as he throws up all over the sidewalk, all over his flared pants, all over his shoes. I notice that his shoes are not blue or suede, and all at once, I feel the need to leave.
I get up and walk away, glancing back just for a second before getting into my car. Elvis doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t stop me. He just stretches across the bench, laying his head where I sat a second ago, and keeps pretending he’s dead.